President Donald Trump shocked the audience during a speech in West Virginia on Thursday when he suggested that women in the Central American migrant caravan traveling to the U.S. through Mexico were being victimized by rapists, revisiting an old campaign claim that Mexico was “not sending their best” to the United States.
Trump did not cite a source, but journalists have reported that the migrants who organized the caravan feared murderers, robbers, and rapists as they made the trek through Mexico. The president seemed to take those reports as confirmation of his previous claims.
Trump revisits Mexican “rapists” claim
Trump set off his presidential campaign with a firestorm of controversy in 2015, when he first accused Mexico of sending criminals to the United States.
“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best,” Trump said at his campaign kickoff in June 2015. “They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”
The president returned to that theme on Thursday at an event in West Virginia, saying that recent reports had finally proven him right. The round-table was supposed to be about tax reform, but Trump started things off by riffing on the border and the caravan of Central American migrants.
“Remember my opening remarks at Trump Tower when I opened? Everybody said, ‘Oh, he’s so tough’. I used the word rape,” he said. “And yesterday it came out, where this journey coming up, women are being raped at levels nobody’s ever seen before. They don’t want to mention that. So we have to change our laws.”
White House responds
A White House official told Fox News that Trump’s remark about high “levels” of rape was referring to “a stat,” and cited a Huffington Post article titled: “80% of Central American Women, Girls are Raped Crossing into the U.S.” The official told Fox:
There is extensive and extreme victimization of those making the journey north with coyotes/smugglers in general. This has been widely reported for years.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders doubled down on Trump’s claim in a press conference on Thursday evening.
She told reporters:
Not sure why the media is acting like this isn’t a well-established fact — women and young girls are brutally victimized on the journey north.
Strikes me as quite bizarre that reporters would try to cover up the gross atrocities perpetuated by smugglers and coyotes.
Sanders cited a Los Angeles Times article published earlier this week which stated that many immigrants who make the journey north are victimized by violent criminals: “Robberies, rapes and assaults — perpetrated by smugglers, cartel members and Mexican immigration agents — are common.”
Crime and controversy
Trump’s comments sparked controversy in the media for his seemingly generalized statement, but the president was merely pointing out what many journalists have already reported about the dangers that migrants face while attempting to reach the United States illegally.
It would be much safer for incoming migrants to try entering the country legally, but until they do that, all Trump can do to deter these violent crimes is to crack down on illegal immigration into the U.S. And for now, the president continues to make it clear that that’s exactly what he plans to do.